Protecting the Great Lakes & Fighting for Clean Drinking Water

Representing a state that borders four of the five Great Lakes, Gary knows firsthand how important it is for our environment and our economy that we protect our natural resources.

The Great Lakes are a critical drinking water source, an economic engine and a vital part of our way of life in Michigan. Gary understands that we need policies to help preserve and protect this ecological treasure for future generations. About 40 million people count on the Great Lakes as a source of clean drinking water. They are the world’s largest system of fresh surface water, providing about one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water supply. Defending the Great Lakes against pollution and invasive species is essential – not just for preserving fish and wildlife in this fragile ecosystem, but for making sure this is a safe place for our kids and grandkids to swim and play. From commercial shipping and agriculture to fishing, boating and tourism, the Great Lakes are deeply intertwined with key industries that drive our state’s economy.

Gary is a member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, a bipartisan working group made up of Senators representing the states bordering the Great Lakes. In his time in the Senate, Gary has enacted legislation to tighten rules around aging pipelines in the Great Lakes – such as Line 5 underneath the Straits of Mackinac, where an oil spill could do catastrophic damage. Under his leadership, he passed legislation to classify the Great Lakes basin as a high consequence area, require pipeline operators to include ice cover as part of their oil response plan and has held operators accountable, pushing for greater transparency. Gary continues to support robust funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). That’s why he spearheaded the bipartisan push that secured the first increase in funding since the GLRI was established – defeating efforts that would decimate the program in the process. He is also working to protect the Great Lakes from threats ranging from plastic micro-beads and Asian carp to proposed permanent nuclear waste storage.

Gary has heard firsthand from communities across Michigan about how shoreline erosion has had negative impacts. Shoreline erosion not only poses a threat to homes and waterfront communities – it also poses serious economic threats to the businesses that rely on waterfronts every day. That’s why Gary passed legislation into law to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund and help states establish revolving loan funds that could be used by local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce natural disaster risk, including shoreline erosion and rising water levels.

As we learn more about the dangers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are prevalent in communities across Michigan, Gary is leading the fight to take action. Exposure to these has been linked to cancer, thyroid and heart problems and even autoimmune issues – all of which are issues Michiganders are facing after unknowingly living around PFAS for years. Gary has led the fight in pushing the EPA to declare PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund Law – which would tighten clean-up standards and requirements around polluters. He has also supported efforts to force the EPA to set clean drinking water standards around PFAS. And Gary’s continuing to press the Air Force to do more to clean-up PFAS contamination and military installations across the country where it used this dangerous chemical for years – including at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

PFAS contamination has become an issue that has impacted states across the country. That’s why Gary has been able to build consensus around legislative action to address PFAS contamination. He has passed provisions into law that take a number of actions: from allowing airports to phase out the use of firefighting foams that contain PFAS to banning the Department of Defense from using them in training exercises and phasing out the purchase of these foams.

We must also constantly be looking towards the future by investing in clean energy job creation and supporting measures to tackle the threat of climate change, which exacerbates current challenges in the Great Lakes like algal blooms and invasive species. Gary is committed to building climate resiliency for our communities and standing firm against attacks on environmental protections. As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gary published a report highlighting the cost of climate change to taxpayers – and the need to invest in resilient infrastructure that will withstand increasing extreme weather events. He will fight efforts that undermine our nation’s key environmental laws, and he has opposed plans to develop our most sensitive ecosystems. He helped the Senate to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an indispensable tool for protecting our state’s most treasured natural places for all to enjoy. He has also introduced the Vehicle Innovation Act to improve advanced vehicle technology R&D that will boost fuel economy, save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.